If you happen to spend any time at all in downtown Calgary, you probably know Kent already. You’ve seen him zipping down 6th Ave in his wheelchair, grabbing a coffee at Tims, or walking along the river path with his wife Deanna.
Kent didn’t always plan to be in politics. At one time, he thought he was headed for a career as a gym teacher. He was a talented hockey player with a bright future ahead of him when he was shot in a random act of violence at 21 years old. He became a C5 quadriplegic, with no use of his legs and limited use of his arms.
The incident that could have taken his life instead shaped his life. Determined not to let fate steal his bright future, Kent went back to school. He completed his degree and went on to law school.
In 2008 he ran to become a provincial MLA. During his time in provincial government, he built productive relationships with the leaders of all parties. He continued this reputation for collaboration as the sole Calgary MP in federal cabinet.
Kent is a devoted volunteer in his community. Organizations he’s served include:
· Calgary Advisory Committee on Accessibility;
· United Way of Calgary Leaders Committee;
· Spinal Cord Injury Alberta; and,
· Calgary Downtown West Community Association.
One of his proudest political achievements is introducing the concept of protecting Gay-Straight Alliances in schools through a private member’s bill. The move sparked a long overdue conversation about LGBTQ+ protections in Alberta.
Q&A with Kent
Why wait till September 7 to announce you’re running for mayor?
I kept waiting to see someone enter the race who represented my views, and no one did. There isn’t a single candidate in the field with a consistent history of representing those views. Calgary is a progressive city, with forward-thinking voters.
A poll earlier this summer showed 68% of Calgarians don’t endorse re-election for the current city council. Why do you think that is?
Unfortunately, our last council became bogged down in toxic infighting. I have a long record of collaborating with people across the political spectrum, and I’m running because I can facilitate the constructive progress Calgary needs.
You stepped down as a Liberal cabinet minister after a respectful workplace complaint. Should voters be concerned about that?
We should all be concerned about respect in the workplace. In my case, the facts about that incident became clear in the months and years afterward, and I believe those facts give me the moral license to seek public office again. I want Calgarians to feel like that too. Google my name, read the account of events, and decide for yourself.
Statistically, most Calgarians aren’t fans of your old boss, Justin Trudeau. Are you still representing his views?
The only views I represent are those of my constituents. I maintain a friendly professional relationship with the Prime Minister, but I’m not beholden to him. Same goes for my former colleagues at the provincial legislature. I think Calgarians will see a real, tangible benefit to having a mayor who isn’t at odds with every other politician in Canada. There isn’t another candidate in this race who can say that.
You have represented Calgarians at the provincial and federal level, now you’re running locally. What made you decide to return to public service?
Well, that was always the plan. I’m the son of two teachers. Public service is in my genes. Back when I was a teenager playing minor league hockey, my dream was to become a Phys Ed teacher someday. But then I had my incident, and that dream seemed impossible. [Editor’s Note: Hehr was shot in a random act of violence when he was 19 and became a C5 quadriplegic.] It was my desire to serve my community that pushed me to go back to school, go to law school, and enter politics.
What I saw when I started advocating for other people with disabilities is that I’m incredibly fortunate in so many ways. That moves me to help people who are less fortunate. I feel like some local politicians have forgotten the challenges of the everyday Calgarian, and I’d like to change that.
What can voters expect to see in your platform?
Bold, progressive action. If you want to see this city diversify its economy and become an innovation hub, if you want to see all citizens taken care of, if you share my concerns about unfair tax systems and conventional policing, you’ll be very interested in the platform I’m presenting.
What do you want voters to know?
If you want Calgary to be a world class city that personifies bold growth and progress, you have to vote at the municipal level. Local government affects our daily lives the most, yet it gets the least civic engagement. Calgarians who believe in progressive values need to get out and vote. This election is a referendum on what kind of city we are, and what kind of city we want to be. Are we a city that caters to the wealthy? Or are we a fair and innovative city that isn’t afraid of taking bold action towards a progressive vision? I didn’t see that perspective on the ballot for mayor, so I decided to run.